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KUSHIRO, Hokkaido (Kyodo) Brown bear sightings at a popular tourist spot on the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido are leading to tighter regulations on tourist activities in the area.

Starting in May, visitors to Shiretoko Goko Lakes, a popular sightseeing spot on the peninsula and UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, will be required to pay a fee and have guides accompany them during certain seasons.

The site, visited by about 500,000 people annually, receives dozens of reports of bear sightings or encounters each year, although no injuries have been reported.

The new regulations, which mainly focus on using the boardwalks that allow visitors to view the lakes, are aimed at ensuring safety and preventing disruption of the bears’ habitat, according to the Environment Ministry, which oversees the site.

From May through July, when the bears are most active, visitors will have to pay a fee and join a tour led by a guide when using the boardwalks.

From August through October, when tourism peaks, visitors will need to pay for use of the boardwalks and take a short paid lesson on how to behave if a bears appears. The park will also restrict the number of people on the boardwalks and the number of visitors per day during the period.

No fee will be required to use the boardwalks in November until the site closes for the season at the end of the month.

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